Palo Alto Officially Declares Its Electric Portfolio “Carbon Neutral”

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Palo Alto looks to get people to switch off natural gas

Palo Alto Online, July 30, 2015. Image credit: PublicDomainPictures

Now comes the next challenge: How to get residents to switch off natural gas and plug into clean electricity?

The effort, commonly known as “fuel switching,” was sparked by both the city’s switch to a “carbon-neutral” electricity portfolio and the City Council’s appetite for new programs that take advantage of the switch.

They noted that natural gas, while enjoying “good press,” is in fact “only marginally better than coal.” That’s because of all the non-combusted methane gas that is released into the atmosphere during the process of extracting and delivering natural gas.

Space heating in the residential sector accounts for 22 percent of the city’s natural-gas use, while water heating accounts for 11 percent. In the commercial sector, space and water heating account for 18 percent and 24 percent of the city’s total use, respectively.

Commercial cooking, meanwhile, makes up 16 percent of total use while commercial processing accounts for another 4 percent. The recent report notes that while introducing heat-pump technologies for water and space heating is relatively less burdensome, “retrofitting existing large commercial buildings for space-heating applications is likely to be cost prohibitive.”

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